May 23, 2024

Appeal & rights: What happens next after Justin Brownlee's failed doping test in Asian Games?

Appeal & rights: What happens next after Justin Brownlee
One Sports/Paolo del Rosario

The International Testing Agency (ITA) announced on Thursday that Gilas Pilipinas star Justin Brownlee failed an anti-doping test in the recently concluded Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

ITA was mandated by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), the governing body of sports in the continent, to handle the anti-doping program in this year's quadrennial meet.

"(The ITA) reports that a sample collected from basketball player Justin Brownlee from the Philippines has returned an adverse analytical finding for carboxy-THC, a specified prohibited substance, according to the prohibited list of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)," said ITA in a report posted on its website.

Carboxy-THC is typically linked to cannabis use.

It added that Brownlee was tested last October 7—a day after their win over Jordan in the finalswith the China Anti-Doping Agency collecting his sample. It is not unusual for an athlete to get tested after a competition.

"The athlete has been informed of the case. He has the right to request the analysis of the B-samples," added ITA.

The obvious question now is: What's next?

Firstly, according to ITA, the case will be forwarded to the Anti-Doping Division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport for adjudication under the OCA anti-doping rules.

"The ITA wishes to clarify that some of the cases may not be final and may be in dispute before the Court of Arbitration for Sport," said the testing agency.

According to the OCA, the principle of "strict liability" applies to all athletes when it comes to the anti-doping program, stressing that "if it is in the athlete’s body, the athlete is responsible for it." It stressed that all athletes must be aware of the prohibited list of WADA and "the risks associated with supplement use."

Next, as earlier stated, Brownlee can still appeal and ask for an alternate analysis, as covered by the Athletes’ Anti-Doping Rights Act of the OCA. Under this, the 35-year-old forward can also exercise his rights to fair testing programs, medical treatment and protection of health rights, right to justice, and right to data protection, among others.

But as of now, Brownlee is part of the list of athletes released by ITA who are "either serving a provisional suspension or other sanctions as a consequence of an anti-doping rule violation."

"The individuals listed below are either temporarily barred or ineligible from participating in any capacity in a competition or activity (other than authorized anti-doping education or rehabilitation programs) related to the Asian Games Hangzhou 2022," said ITA.

Also on the list is Filipina cyclist Ariana Dormitorio, who failed an anti-doping test last September 23. Eight other athletes are also listed, including Sami Bzai of Jordan, which Gilas Pilipinas competed against in the gold medal match.

ITA noted that the sanction relates to this year's Asian Games "exclusively." It said it is up to the athlete's international federation—in Brownlee's case, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP)—to mete out further punishments. 

Now, will the Philippines be forced to return the historic gold medal it won in the Asian Games last Friday?

Based on the OCA anti-doping rules, there are different guidelines for athletes competing in individual sports and team sports. In Brownlee's case, he's covered by the latter. If Article 11.2 will be the basis, Gilas Pilipinas might not need to return the gold medal.

"If more than two members of a team in a team sport are found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation during an event period, the ruling body of the event shall impose an appropriate sanction on the team (e.g. loss of points, disqualification from a competition or event, or other sanction) in addition to any consequences imposed upon the individual athletes committing the anti-doping rule violation," stated Article 11.2.

It clearly said "more than two members of a team," so that might be in Gilas Pilipinas' favor. But it's important to note that this is mere speculation as of now. Conversely, nothing is final yet in Brownlee's case.

As of writing, the SBP, the Philippine Olympic Committee, or the Philippine Sports Commission has yet to issue a statement on the matter.

There's also the case of Bzai. If both the Philippines and Jordan are ordered to forfeit their gold medal and silver medal, respectively, curiously, China, the host country, will be crowned champion.

There are still many moving pieces to the issue. But every step will be critical.